“Never criticize or condemn - or it will all come back on you." ~ Luke 6:37
Mark had come to the coffee shop for solitude, to escape everything and everyone. But now that he was here, even the coffee seemed cold and he longed for some company.
Two young women were discussing the rash of celebrity suicide deaths dominating the nightly news recently. Mark was drawn to their exchange.
“People commit suicide when they are too depressed, alone, or stressed to carry on,” said one. To which the other countered, “Just because someone’s sad beyond repair doesn’t make it OK. It’s selfishness through weakness.” They bounced remarks between themselves like a rubber ball.
Mark’s heart started racing. He felt nauseous and started to cry. It reminded him of the suicide that ended his own father’s death when he was 11 years old and the pain and isolation that lingers to this day. Painful emotions have run the spectrum from shock to grief, to heartbreak, to rage (at both his Dad and himself), to sorrow, and back to anger at how unfair it all was.
Isolation because the one person from whom he wanted answers from was the same person he’d never see again. One never gets the answer to the question: “Why?” That’s a lonely feeling.
Even today, Mark found it impossible to contemplate life through the lens of depression. The thought of suicide does seem selfish. Why would someone leave the world prematurely, creating insurmountable sorrow, all-encompassing guilt, and unanswerable questions for those you love?
He didn’t have an answer because he was generally a healthy person. His Dad had not been.
His Dad suffered from depression. He knew he wasn’t well, yet he couldn’t fix it and wasn’t able to contemplate a future without pain. His mental state felt permanent and therefore a burden to those he loved. If you can’t get better and contribute to the well-being of those he loved, why not release them and yourself?
Through that lens, suicide felt like a selfless, practical act.
Only he was wrong. Because his Dad was sick. And so, for Mark, the circular argument continued.
Mark will never truly know why his Dad felt death was better than life, and more particularly, why it was better than a life with him. But what helps is the knowledge that this illness, this plague - because that’s what it’s become in our society – is not a rational choice made by people wishing to hurt us. Suicide is illogical. It’s indiscriminate. The emotions it provokes in us are irrational, too.
Rather than blaming the victims of illness, we must hold space for the struggle they endure. We are too quick to shun what we don’t understand. How would the conversation change if we chose compassion, or at least non-judgment?
Father, help us to be mindful that it’s not our place to judge others. You alone will judge us as You see fit. Help us to trust in Your almighty plan and the power of Your love to capture hearts and transform people. Amen